The United States on Thursday unleashed a volley of actions to censure China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority, with lawmakers voting to curb trade and a slew of new sanctions over high-tech surveillance.
The United States has been ramping up pressure on China amid a crop of disputes, with President Joe Biden’s administration a day earlier targeting producers of painkillers that have contributed to America’s addiction crisis.
After prolonged negotiations, the US Senate unanimously voted to make the United States the first country to ban virtually all imports from China’s northwestern Xinjiang region over concerns of the prevalence of forced labor.
“We know it’s happening at an alarming, horrific rate with the genocide that we now witness being carried out,” said Senator Marco Rubio, a driver behind the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
The House of Representatives passed the act last week and the White House has said Biden will sign it.
The act, which has unsettled some US businesses, bans the import of all goods from the region unless companies offer verifiable proof that production did not involve slavery.
Xinjiang is a major source of cotton, with an estimated 20 percent of the garments imported each year into the United States including some material from the region.
Rights experts, witnesses and the US government say more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims are incarcerated in camps in an effort to root out their Islamic cultural traditions and forcibly homogenize them into China’s Han majority.
Beijing describes the sites as vocational training centers and says that, like many Western nations, it is seeking to reduce the allure of radical Islam following deadly attacks.
The United States has described the campaign as genocide and, along with Australia, Britain and Canada, has planned a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games next year over the issue.
– High-tech surveillance –
The Biden administration on Thursday also fired off a round of new sanctions over surveillance in Xinjiang, where rights groups say China has been honing new technologies in artificial intelligence and DNA tracking to keep tabs on Uyghurs.
The Treasury Department banned any US financial transactions with eight Chinese technology companies.
The companies include SZ DJI Technology, which has provided drones to security services in Xinjiang, and Xiamen Meiya Pico Information, which has developed a mobile application to track files on individuals’ phones.
Other targets included Cloudwalk Technology, which was developed to recognize faces of Uyghurs and Tibetans and has since been deployed to Zimbabwe to help improve the technology, the Treasury Department said.
Separately, the Commerce Department restricted sensitive exports to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences and 11 of its research institutes over biotechnology work including “purported brain-control weaponry,” a notice said.
The research institutes include centers focused on blood transfusions, bio-engineering and toxicology.
“The scientific pursuit of biotechnology and medical innovation can save lives,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the PRC is choosing to use these technologies to pursue control over its people and its repression of members of ethnic and religious minority groups,” she added, using the abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China.
“We cannot allow US commodities, technologies and software that support medical science and biotechnical innovation to be diverted toward uses contrary to US national security.”
The Commerce Department also blacklisted companies from China, as well as Georgia, Malaysia and Turkey, for allegedly diverting US items to the military of Iran, a US adversary on which Washington maintains sweeping sanctions.
Based in Beijing, the Academy of Military Medical Sciences has been active in development of a Covid-19 vaccine. But the United States has been increasingly alarmed by the connections between civilian and military research in China.
China earlier Thursday voiced anger over the US sanctions on chemical companies over painkiller exports.
“These kinds of erroneous acts, in which one side is sick but forces the other to take the medicine, is not constructive,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)